Over 16,000 cracks were found in the steel reactor pressure vessels in nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in Belgium. These vessels contain highly volatile and radioactive nuclear fuel cores. Though the reactors were briefly shut last year, the government is still debating on the fate of these nuclear reactors.
Meanwhile, the independent security experts, who were approached to assess the situation, have called for an immediate and complete sweep of nuclear reactors worldwide to spot such dangerous developments, well before any disaster strikes.
“The safety of every nuclear reactor on the planet could be significantly compromised… What we are seeing in Belgium is potentially devastating for nuclear reactors globally due to the increased risk of a catastrophic failure.”
Needless to say, even a slight malfunction or failure of these steel reactor pressure vessels can cause catastrophic nuclear accidents, resulting in a massive release of radiation. What’s concerning is the persistent and, more importantly, entirely unexpected cracking could be related to corrosion, even from normal operation, said Professor Walter Bogaerts and Professor Digby MacDonald, two leading material scientists.
“The consequences could be very severe… like fracturing the pressure vessel, loss of coolant accident. This would be a leak before break scenario, in which case before a fracture of a pipe occurred… you would see a jet of steam coming out through the insulation. My advice is that all reactor operators, under the guidance of the regulatory commissions should be required to do an ultrasonic survey of the pressure vessels. All of them.”
Shockingly, the experts are stressing that Belgian, along with the rest of the countries who have deployed nuclear reactors, should immediately commission safety audits that thoroughly check and assure the integrity of the nuclear reactors. Such forms of cracking have never been noticed earlier, owing to the assumption that such a thing couldn’t be possible.
However, as Belgian continues to debate the fate of the reactors, prolonged studies on the steel used in the construction of the reactors revealed unprecedented embrittlement – unusual swelling – that can compromise the integrity of the plant and possibly cause ruptures, spewing dangerous radioactive material equivalent to an atomic bomb.
[Image Credit | Tractebel Engineering, Sci ELO]